TiVo as the black box

05Apr07

In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins argues against the “black box fallacy” of technological convergence – that one magic device will merge all media uses and platforms. I agree that this is an oversimplification of where we’re going, but we shouldn’t throw out the appeal of cross-platform integrated systems tied together through one device, the hub of a home media system. I think as computers & home entertainment systems continue down the convergent path, we’ll see a proliferation of screens – ranging from micro-phones & iPods to macro-HD monitors – with a more centralized set of boxes able to transfer files across platforms. For anyone who has tried to watch downloaded video on more traditional TV screens, the appeal of an easy way to transfer content without losing resolution is clear.

In today’s New York Times, David Pogue outlines how TiVo is positioning itself as a hub aiming to do much more than timeshift TV. From pulling down web content to sharing digital photos & music, TiVo can fully participate in a home network. I’ve played with Amazon’s Unbox feature for TiVo, where you can purchase or rent videos and automatically transfer them to TiVo via download. It seems a bit slow downloading, but certainly easier than purchasing through iTunes and then connecting my iPod or laptop to the TV. What TiVo has always had going for it is the best interface for interacting with television – the ability to extend that into downloaded files (and web content) is key. Hopefully it will be enough to convince people to drop the “good enough” DVRs from cable companies and switch over to improve TiVo’s constantly precarious standing in the market.

On a side note: I’ve had a TiVo since 2000 (we added another last year, which has all the cool network features). Not to jinx it, but how has this machine been able to have a constantly-running hard drive for six years with no crashes or failures? Does anybody know why TiVo’s systems seem less subject to breakdown than other computers (or am I just lucky)?



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